Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Eric Reimer

Faculty Mentor’s Department

English

Abstract

When the world is in chaos, where do we go to rediscover ourselves and make sense of it all? In this paper, I posit that the locales of the desert and the ocean are conceptualized as “blank” or “empty” in the Western imagination, and serve as sites to stage and asses the existential angst caused by sociocultural upheaval. Both The Tempest (1610) by William Shakespeare and The Sheltering Sky (1949) by Paul Bowles use the ocean and the desert, respectively, as spaces in which to stage and asses the angst borne of the massive sociocultural and national upheavals the authors experienced in their respective time periods. Both pieces also place Western material culture, specifically clothing, at the center of these explorations, imposing Western material goods on these otherwise consumer-less spaces. A pivotal scene in The Sheltering Sky comes when American “travelers” Port and Kit Moresby, are on the very edge of “Western” civilization in a hotel in Bou Narou, and Port is “amused to watch [Kit] building her pathetic little fortress of Western culture in the middle of the wilderness" (156). The Tempest’s subtle obsession with clothing is also indicative of the desire to cling to Western material culture while attempting to remake one’s self in a space that is perceived in the Western imagination as having no history or culture of its own. I will consider specifically postmodern and Marxist critiques of these texts to explore the meaning of Western material culture. In addition, I will consider the Romantic conception of the sublime to understand why the desert and the ocean are sites of self-actualization, and thus draw parallels between the disillusionment and anxieties facing both Shakespeare and Bowles.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 17th, 9:00 AM Apr 17th, 9:20 AM

Masques and Luggage: Sociocultural Anxieties as Manifested Through "Empty Spaces" in The Tempest and The Sheltering Sky

UC 331

When the world is in chaos, where do we go to rediscover ourselves and make sense of it all? In this paper, I posit that the locales of the desert and the ocean are conceptualized as “blank” or “empty” in the Western imagination, and serve as sites to stage and asses the existential angst caused by sociocultural upheaval. Both The Tempest (1610) by William Shakespeare and The Sheltering Sky (1949) by Paul Bowles use the ocean and the desert, respectively, as spaces in which to stage and asses the angst borne of the massive sociocultural and national upheavals the authors experienced in their respective time periods. Both pieces also place Western material culture, specifically clothing, at the center of these explorations, imposing Western material goods on these otherwise consumer-less spaces. A pivotal scene in The Sheltering Sky comes when American “travelers” Port and Kit Moresby, are on the very edge of “Western” civilization in a hotel in Bou Narou, and Port is “amused to watch [Kit] building her pathetic little fortress of Western culture in the middle of the wilderness" (156). The Tempest’s subtle obsession with clothing is also indicative of the desire to cling to Western material culture while attempting to remake one’s self in a space that is perceived in the Western imagination as having no history or culture of its own. I will consider specifically postmodern and Marxist critiques of these texts to explore the meaning of Western material culture. In addition, I will consider the Romantic conception of the sublime to understand why the desert and the ocean are sites of self-actualization, and thus draw parallels between the disillusionment and anxieties facing both Shakespeare and Bowles.